Living In Colour: Mental health impact of discrimination

this is living in color a series about POCs which stands for people of color that looks at how our everyday experiences are shaped by the color of our skin in this episode we discuss how racism and how one's own culture can impact your mental health we would also like to tell you that this episode does contain sensitive subject matter so if you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help resources are available including the number on our screen welcome to living in color I'm your host fara Nasir and I'm joined by a Polish I'm gonna say Kragh David Lewis Puritan on this side Asante cotton and llanera Abukar thank you guys so much for joining us you know one in five people are affected by mental health that's according to the Canadian Mental Health Association and National Alliance on Mental Health and when it comes to mental health we usually talk about depression anxiety schizophrenia all are important but what happens when you have these factors plus you have your ethnic identity to deal with and how it impacts your mental health is what we're discussing today on the show so again thank you guys so much for being here Asante I'm gonna start with you you are a speaker you grew up in a Jamaican household how did your race and identity shape something that you're pretty open about your struggle with depression your struggle with body dysmorphia how did that impact your life there was always this expectation that you had to be hard and you had to be tough and I think that's very embedded in Jamaican culture in general but also as a male and living up to what masculinity means in the culture definitely means that you always have to be hard tough you can't cry ever what happens when you cry you get beat or you know are punished in some way or ostracized or told that you're soft or so it's not a positive result at all you talk to me about body dysmorphia I really want understand that and how race impacted that for you well we talk about body dysmorphia most people are really talking about white girls and what they're going through and me being a heterosexual black male certainly wasn't something I could have spoke openly about with anybody really it it was definitely under the table and super taboo and just couldn't bring it up with anybody so it was very isolating and an experience that I very much lived alone for quite some time so what happens when you looked in the mirror what was that like whoa did you did you look at me I didn't look in the mirror and I guess the thing was you know I was very self-conscious around the fact I was very thin growing up some people made fun of me because you know of my teeth or my head was too big for my body at the time and all these different things and I kind of internalized a lot of this stuff and I started seeing exaggerated images of what other people were telling me they saw and it was to see that made me almost feel ashamed to be within my own skin so I stopped looking at the mirror for about a year maybe even a little bit more than a year I didn't look at a mirror when I walked by you know window fronts I kind of kept my head straight so I couldn't see my reflection I was pretty deep like you work in this space I would love to get your your perspective in terms of the first time you were called something we share something we were both called packy at a certain age and for me was on the playground and it I can say truly it really influenced a lot of things in my life I wanted to shy away from my culture because I saw it as something bad tell me about the first time you were called Paki and working in this mental health space how it's affected your mental health and how words can can really change things yeah the first time I was called that I was about eight years old it was soon after we moved to Canada I was walking home with a friend it was a couple of teenagers in a car they drove by and says something like Paki go home and my friend immediately was like oh I'm so sorry and I was looking around thinking that was that directed at me because I'm sterlink and I'm not Pakistani I didn't understand what that comment was and it wasn't until I went home and talked to my mom about it that she helped me understand that it was a derogatory term but my friend you know she was a you know she was white and she understood it and we were eight you know and so young she acknowledged it though absolutely so Tully and that's a thing about these experiences we all remember them we can we can recall that first moment we experienced racism because it's so deeply personal and so deeply traumatic right but we're all taught to to rise above it right we have to turn the other cheek we have to move forward so many of us kind of put it away in a box and we don't fully process it or perhaps we don't have the capacity to process it but the thing about trauma is the body remembers trauma so the next time something similar happens your your reach Ramat eyes you're triggered it could be a sight a sound smell or a very similar experience and you could be retriggered so that's the that's the piece and a lot of people when when incidents happen on the subway or whatever people say oh why is that colored woman so angry well they're not just reacting to what happened today but what happened last week ten years ago and thinking about absolutely it happened to them you said something to me when we talked to over the phone that really struck me and it's about how people externalize versus internalize so it's either easier to pull the trigger on Dante than it is to pull the trigger on myself talk to me about that the point there is also men right like men's experience of mental health it's very different than women's or at least the ways in which it externalizes or becomes visible and for a lot of the reasons why you mentioned the Sante young men who are struggling with mental health depression anxiety sometimes it doesn't manifest in the way that people would assume that would look like right so I think people have this image in their heads of someone curled up in a fetal position and crying for a lot of men who've received a story similar to yours of man up and you don't cry and you hold yourself a particular kind of way I think that that shows up in the way that some young men are violent or or harmful to other folks with their words or with their actions and I see that a lot in communities of color black communities young men who are struggling with trauma but you wouldn't see it it shows up in what the news would sort of characterize as another incident another violent incident with another young black then do you have experiences or either if you externalized it versus internalized it I did I was the kid that was in the principal's office quite often my mother was a single mother and nurse worked a lot my father was inconsistent in his parenting at best at worst he was abusive had a story of being beaten up for crying in a very public place and a lot of the sort of breakdown of my home as my mother who also struggled with mental health and continues to struggle with mental health showed up for me as behavioral issues so much so to the facts where at some point I ended up in the care of the children's welfare system for a number of years and so yeah I very intimately know what externalizing looks like for young men of color I mean I'm gonna turn it over to you I you faced you faced specific racism discrimination when you ran for City Council in Etobicoke I think the experience for me I think speaking to the lowest point of a lot of the times when trauma happens to somebody a lot of times when we associate certain experiences to that trauma it becomes difficult and so for me on the campaign trail it's very easy I think for for white male candidates to knock on doors to knock in buildings and to go you know kind of with this unabashed sense of courage to knock on doors and there was a certain fear I think an element of fear for me knocking on door the fact that if I knocks on a door stumpy let's say I'm not voting for you don't knock on my door again or I don't want you know you're you know a lot of swear words I don't want this explicitly severe on my door don't come to so did they say they said this to explicitly or you thought they were gonna say this to you it stopped you from going it the fear was that the the thing for me was I there's a fear that it was going to happen at the door and my certain experiences it did and we had we had issues where we had to you know call the police to lessons and buildings even cameras in the first place I had all the documents prepared all the statements saying that I was you know verified by the city to run and still supers would say you're not allowed in here you're kind your people are not allowed in here and so it reached a pinnacle to the point where people felt so entitled and so afraid of my running to create change in my community that being hung upside down from trees and we had you know pill writing you know like my signs in particular people writing in a go home and for me it was really going through that experience I felt there's a certain expectation now you had to be confident in running you had to be you know ready for everything and I wasn't I wasn't confident I think I put on an air of confidence but I was so afraid to do these things because we were going through people telling me like in my own community you're too young to run you know what you're a woman women shouldn't be running for politics especially women with head scarves maybe you take the head scarf off so there's so much different opinions and so much different reasons as to why I couldn't run that ad by the end of the campaign I was like I was just an MS like I didn't wanted to go through the experience of being in the public eye and being sort of torn apart by opinions that up until that point weren't relevant to me how did it I mean after the campaign during the campaign how did it impact you I think for me it the challenge a lot with mental health is especially coming from communities of color and in my particular experience of Muslim community there is this absence of mental health if you are suffering from a doubt that say you have a religious crisis you need to go and have religious scripture right on you and so there's already growing up for me it was like this experience not in my home personally but if I had seen mental health especially coming from the Somali community community or back home our solution was like to tie people to trees or to read do you know like Scripture on them so I felt like Quran yeah so I felt like growing up I couldn't admit to if I ever had a problem I kind of just say and isn't this it's finite so suppress it to the point where during my campaign oh so at the end of the campaign I went through a lot of of anger like a lot of a lot of anger that I couldn't express and it was taking out in the wrong ways you're describing is post-traumatic stress right there's so much research now that links post-traumatic stress to race-based traumatic stress right and there's so many instances like you just described how walking to a new door knocking on the door crazing anxiety and even paranoia for you right and we can look to a lot of different experiences like that so we've talked about you know race based life events that we've all experienced then there's kind of chronic everyday lived experience in microaggressions right which is what you face right and I'll often codified and all using things like ageism to without actually calling calling out what the issue is for that person yeah you know one thing you brought up that I thought was fascinating and it's same thing I mean I'm a member of the Muslim community too so it's it's very much like okay just pray just praying you'll feel better you know that's just that whole narrative and well I'd love to get your perspective but all of yours about how within our our communities how mental health is treated and how sometimes in certain ways it's not really taken seriously do you want to start doing yeah so I think the challenge for communities of color in dealing with mental health is that you're not only dealing with these sort of external things that are happening sometimes due to race or age agenda but then also the things that exist within our communities particularly around mental health and so my experience growing up in a Christian household similar messaging similar messaging around this idea that like faithfulness and prayer and devoutness could resolve some of those things I mean a real resistance to sort of traditional mental health services and this for me was what really drew me into doing spiritual work it was because I recognized that both mental health work and spiritual work were actually the same thing and so a lot of my work over the last number of years was and has been around building community to address these social and emotional things that the thing that you raised in terms of racism and these microaggressions and all these things that impact us no one ever talks about the fact that just living for everybody is a stressor right is that just being on this planet revolving around the Sun takes a toll in this day and age you add on to that things like age or race or religion or all these other sort of factors you increase the likelihood of someone experiencing episodes you know you you you address this to I mean if you had told your mom like you know you hear on on TV shows and stuff you you see you know somebody's saying oh well I talked to my therapist bla bla bla bla bla in our community I mean that doesn't really exist you don't say things like that out loud right you know and you know it's interesting that you say that because despite the fact that my mom was going through her own mental health stuff I still did not feel safe talking to her about my mental health stuff even when she was actively in the system seeing psychiatrists seeing specialists taking medication there was still this this caution for me to not go down that road you know because anytime I brought up my feelings or anything of that nature before I even got to the mental health conversation it was shut down immediately the faith-based stuff I definitely hear you you know my grandmother it was just all about just praying away prayed away and you know you struggled with and you've been open about this so I'm I'm okay saying because I asked you before you were okay I mean you you struggled with suicidal thoughts to the point where you didn't take the subway because you thought you were gonna jump off the platform yeah and you felt like you still could have talked to anybody about that yeah and you know it's interesting that when that was happening I was so isolated and people probably would have thought I was doing really well and happy at that time of my life because I was doing quite well from the outside looking in no I was calling the school I was getting good grades I had a lot of friends a social life was on point you know just I was making some money I was working at a nightclub all that you know for a young guy you know barely into 20s I was doing it but meanwhile you know I'm thinking every day about how I could jump in front of the subway train and you still have some of the suicide notes you wrote I still have all three of the suicide notes that I wrote you know for me it's a reminder that it's kind of a reminder of where I've been and where I might be again if I don't take care of myself properly I think a lot of parents and a lot of mothers in particular are afraid to open up about the mental health and our afraid to open up all the vulnerabilities are facing because they're afraid that once that vulnerability is seen that you know what it gives people a a room or a loophole here to take away something I've worked for in the first place and I've seen it happened a lot of times it's like I mean we're parents will suppress suppress suppress to the point where they can't care care for themselves on their kids our parents they mean well right or our communities mean well saying here the the ways in which we coped right but that doesn't always work for us because if we're if you're silent we're suffering in silence and a lot of the time they were worst case scenario people you tend to use you know really drastic coping mechanisms whether it's alcohol drugs and things like that so I think that that that fear of talking about it it's kind of passed on and we talk about intergenerational peace right that you know racism something we all just have to endure it and we don't talk about it and the impact it has on our mental health we want we don't talk about it because the best way we can do is is rise above it and you know get our education get our jobs and get our you know get our life together right but we don't ever stop to deconstruct what's happened and what the impact has been on us Asante one of the things I was noticing was just on that idea of the sharing of stories and how much of your story was my story you know and that's the other thing that we're sort of robbed when we don't have the opportunity to voice what we're going through is recognizing that there actually are a lot of other people who are struggling with comperable things down to you know the subway I wrote a poem about I remember in high school reading a poem about being nervous about standing so close to the subway tracks and body dysmorphia and all of these sorts of things in an add into it sexuality and all of the things that come with with that so yeah they're sharing stories and the importance of that for our communities in terms of healing as I brought up super-dope that you said that because one thing I've noticed with my friends is that once I started talking about my story they started talking about their story and you know doing a lot of work with young men of color you know in the community you know a lot of these guys who are you know getting in trouble getting suspended getting in fights you know you talk to them on on a one-on-one level and they'd start to tell you their story and it's like they're going through a lot of stuff and sometimes they're didn't with mental health stuff that they have not disclosed to anybody except you know maybe just me or whoever their worker might be those stories aren't coming out but those stories are very important and going back to what you're saying at the beginning is you know when those stories don't come out the externalization of what's happening with their mental health and the mental health challenges that they might be facing could lead them down roads where now you're in the justice system and there are other consequences so that's the other piece is that for particularly racialized mend their first experience of mental health service is having first moved through the criminal system whereas as you sort of printed out earlier far that there's a number of folks from outside of our communities who there's a normalized conversation about seeking help oh I'm going to see my therapist and we're into it and that doesn't happen in communities of color and you touch on some stuff when you're around the pathologizing of black families right is it it's a stain on not only you but in your entire community that you've not been able to endure some of the things that you sort of raised and so that's the the thing the the lack of normalization of mental health and service access and then when you get into service the absence of mental health practitioners of color why is that important to have people who are who look like you being of service why is that improv I'll tell you why and you know the first time therapy was suggested to me I was 16 years old and I went to I guess the intake appointment and you know I saw you know sort of youngish white male and I was just a lot of what I was dealing with was identity based and you know how am I going to explain my experience to this person and they're going to get it enough that they can help me how can I explain the impact of you know walking out of my door every day and feeling anxiety because I live in a heavily policed neighborhood and despite the fact that I'm getting straight A's in school student council captain of the basketball team I'm doing well seem like you're doing well but inside yeah I'm getting stopped every you know once a week by cops who probably know me because they see me in the neighborhood you know so going back to your point and David there's a lack of trust in the system I didn't want to engage with a system that was also actively oppressing me so you're asking me to go to the place for help that is actually causing a lot of the suffering it's a double-edged sword I think the the challenge is really our double-edge it's not sense where you deal with internally dismissiveness and externally deal with dean legitimization so a lot of times externally your deals do demise as a person you're you're already facing this challenge to be recognized as human in the first place but some recognizes a flawed human is even more of a question to be fueled to be accepting in the first place talk to me about what you'd like to tell somebody who's watching right now somebody who might be struggling with mental illness or somebody who's not part of the POC community who might you know want it want to be an ally or want to help in this way there's a lot of ways that our communities have figured out how to cope and there's things that we can build on so it's not all deficit based one of the things that we do really well in communities of color is come together as community and in addressing mental health as a community I think it requires a collective effort in response okay great I think two things one first the person who experienced it I think it's really important that we think about mental health like we think about our overall health right we go to the dentist get a dental checkup we go to our GP family physician or sometimes we go to a massage therapist if we're lucky to have the benefits but why not have a mental health checkup right and I think it's it's that idea of normalizing that David said if we think about it as a checkup as part of our overall health it's a lot easier to do than this big you know big nebulous idea the other piece is for the person who's witnessing it and not knowing what to do naming it is so important acknowledging that person's experience and saying I'm you know whether they didn't intervene or not just to say that what happened to you I'm so sorry that was racism and that goes a long way because then you know the person not walking around thinking about that just happened in my head it's like your valid ating that person's experience goes a long way in supporting their mental help that you're right that does speak volumes Asante people will ask children who are not behaving well what's wrong with you rather than like just what's wrong and I think we need you know to start you know looking at our young people and to give them a lot more compassion and guidance and not personalizing their misbehavior or what we might perceive as their misbehavior as shameful to us as parents or siblings or family members or community members and to start to see that you know that behavior is often a symptom of something else that is happening still you know let's interact with people ask people and try to at least work on our biases and to acknowledge them and work on them and to see people as people with rich experiences that in many ways are very much like your own even though we might express them differently based on the way we dress the language we speak in our traditions okay how do I add on to all that so maybe yeah you guys everything I was gonna say there's there's no shame in reaching out to support systems and I say also there's no shame and there's no shame in speaking out I think a lot of times for me the challenges especially speaking a fat in a family context it sometimes family doesn't know what family's going through and it's challenging like you you're afraid that once you do reach out that that person may not support you they may not understand it I think once you kind of bring out what's going on the inside to to kind of a public spectrum or bringing it out just of yourself there's a relief I really I've learned a lot from this conversation and that's the point of us doing this show so I want to thank you all and I want to thank you for watching living in color if you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help resources are available including the number on our screen thank you for watching living in color if you enjoyed the show please subscribe to our Channel and if you have an idea for a future living in color episode we'd love your thoughts leave them in the comments section


  1. Why would I want to hear these racists?

  2. This segment should be called: The inclusiveness of exclusion: Counter protesting your own self awareness.

  3. Come on now Global , impact of discrimination , and what are you doing to Faith Goldy ,   That doesn't count I guess ,  ….   You haven't even given the reason why you won't let her debate .            Hypocrites .

  4. Views count is fake and misleading. 24,000 did not watch this. It has very low interaction in the comment section and the thumbs up to down total is very low. Global buys views to get people to think this is important topic but people are not paying attention.

  5. Stop pushing the victim mentality and put away your deck of race cards. ALL people are subjected to discrimination at some time in their lives.

  6. I am a "coloured" WHITE, cuz white is a colour, MAN 30 yrs old who's been struggling with Suicide, Major Depression, PTSD, Addictions for years. The highest statistics anywhere for Suicide is WHITE MEN. I've been hospitalized 12 times, and now "waiting" to go back "again". Mental Health Treatment in Canada is pathetic. It's a very very scary and sad time to be a White Man in Canada these days.

  7. What a pile of BS

  8. Incredible panel!

  9. White discrimination is the new normal in Canada. Old Stock Canadians! Don’t run me a line on discrimination! Fake news pandering to the Moslems, etc. Not buying this crap.

  10. I might be psychotic because im a person of colour who doesn't make every issue an issue of colour

  11. POC?
    Meaning: non white.
    Lumping all non whites into one category without regard for their ethnicity, culture, language, etc….
    "Progressivism" in 2018.
    And they still think they're not the racist ones, the rest of us who don't care about race apparently are.
    Lunacy. Absolute lunacy 😑

  12. Good morning and I don't have time for being mental ,life is in color and that is the beautiful thing about life . God had all of the different races and all people have too do is make your choice and I could go on and on on this subject and I was not raised up to be prejudice and I accept a person for who they are ,so thanks for sharing this video and the chat ,and this is not a perfect world right now so I am glad that I don't have that problem but all people come from different walks of life and it might not be their fault ,much love to you all and have a good one.

  13. I live in white and black but I dream in colors.

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